With Wilmette Power Purchasing Program’s plan of governance approved, residents are urging trustees to select an electricity vendor that provides 100 percent renewable energy community wide.
Residents will see savings on their electricity bill regardless of the percentage of renewable energy selected. Homeowners would pay $1 to $2 per month extra for electricity supply from 100 percent renewable sources when compared to the state minimum requirement of 7 percent, experts said.
“The reason Wilmette needs to adopt 100 percent renewable on a community-wide basis is because just like with second-hand smoke, if you adopt clean energy but your neighbors on either side do not, you are not going to get the benefit,” said Wilmette resident Joel Africk. “If you do not smoke but your neighbors on both sides do, you are going to get the second hand smoke. With clean energy, you may not be able to smell the difference the way you do with second hand smoke, but the difference is every bit as real.”
Africk, president and CEO of Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, says chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disease, is the third leading cause of death in U.S. today. In Illinois, some 399,000 people have been diagnosed with COPD, according to the 2010 Illinois Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey.
“Admissions to emergency rooms go up because there’s a connection between the quality of our energy and our air pollution and their health,” he said.
Karen Glennemeier, a member of Wilmette’s Environmental and Energy Commission, says that as a private citizen she is glad the village is considering renewable energy. She cited a national clean energy survey that showed, “more than 70 percent of voters are in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency’s updated standard to mercury smog, carbon dioxide, and standards on emissions.”
“Again we don’t have a Wilmette survey, but we have every reason to believe that Wilmette would be similar if not even more strongly supportive [of clean energy],” she said.
Go Green Wilmette, a local nonprofit that supports creating a sustainable environment, recently wrote on Patch, “”
Other communities choosing 100 percent renewable energy include Lake Forest, Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Long Grove, Palatiene, Vernon Hills, Wheeling and Lincolnshire, according to Illinois Community Choice Aggregation Network, a consulting company that’s helping the village through the electrical aggregation process.
Renewable energy credits, a solution to cleaner environment
If the village selects electricity from 100 percent renewable sources, it does not mean the electricity itself is coming directly from wind turbines or solar panels. There is no way to store energy so most vendors purchase renewable energy credits, or RECs, that acknowledges the electricity provided to consumers was at one time generated from renewable sources.
“You cannot definitively say that by buying the RECs you are building another wind turbine –you are increasing its profitability,” said Trustee Mike Basil. “But the argument for RECs is by you purchasing the REC and sending that subsidy to the generator, well, now they have more money and the thinking is they will put it to produce more wind energy.”
Beth Drucker, president of Go Green Wilmette, acknowledged that the REC system may not be a perfect system, “but it’s system that’s in place that we can take advantage of.”
“You can support renewable energy, reduce carbon emission and save money for residents,” Drucker told the board. “Speaking for members of Go Green Wilmette, I want to urge you to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to create a Win-Win situation for Wilmette.
Village adopts plan of governance
The approved Wilmette Power Purchasing Program’s plan of governance will seek bids from suppliers for various contract periods, four different levels of renewable energy sources – meeting the State’s 7 percent renewable requirement, 50 percent renewable, 100 percent renewable, or customer choice 100 percent renewable. Residents will not be charged for opting in or out. The contract would be awarded after Commonwealth Edison announced its electricity rates, typically in June, so the village would have all pricing information available.
Wilmette has already sent out request for proposals and expects bids back by June 4, according to Wilmette Village Manager Tim Frenzer.
“The reason the [request for proposal] is already out is because unless the board is able to act on it by June 12 there isn’t little hope of getting residents great relief during the summer highest peak consumption time,” Frenzer said.
The village is expected to select a vendor at the June 12 board meeting and lock in a price for residents by the end of June or early July. The earliest residents could be part of the new electrical aggregation program would be the second half of August, Frenzer said.
Tuesday’s public hearing is the last one required as part of the March 20 electrical aggregation referendum Wilmette and Kenilworth voters approved. The referendum authorizes the villages to seek cheaper electricity supply for residential and commercial retail customers who have not opted out of the program.
Correction: A previous version of this article said 42,000 people have been diagnosed with COPD in Illinois. It has been updated to reflect the correct statistic that some 399,000 people have been diagnosed with COPD.